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Is your back bar winning? We worry about the performance of individual drinks, brands and bottles at our bars but taking stock of the collective back bar is necessary housekeeping.

Our guide to designing your back bar will ensure it’s functional to boost efficiency in service and impress your customers.


Think about these stats...

1 out of every 3 customers do not know what to order when entering a bar.

2 out of 3 default to beer and wine, uninspired by spirits.

To help you drive your spirits sales you need to it easy for your customers to choose their spirit.

There are two elements that can help you boost your sales. Even though you could work them out separately, these are even stronger when together.


A good back bar is like any good sports team – it takes a varied bunch to get the best results.

Of course, you’ll need the ‘big hitters’ or ‘goal scorers’ up front to win you points, but there’s always a need for ‘interesting’ characters in outfield or the bench to balance and add a bit of soul to the collection.

For any type of back bar, from large, sprawling high volume bars to bars that deal with short or non-existent back bars, it’s imperative to first consider optimizing your portfolio range. This heightens efficiency and profits by determining if you have got the right range for your bar.

There is a true story from an operator in Australia years ago. A sales consultant once asked this owner to list one new whiskey product in his portfolio. He introduced all the main benefits and features of the new brand with great skill and charisma.

The operator agreed immediately to make an order, only if the sales consultant took out one of his lowest sellers in the portfolio. When the consultant responded. “ Let’s definitely look into my offering. However, can I ask you one question before going through my proposal... How come you carry more than 14 different whiskey references today?” The operator answered: “Because I have 14 different suppliers”.

While this is a valid – and common – response in our industry. It does not make it right.

By defining a clear range strategy, you also minimize any potential gaps in your sales. That’s right, a range strategy.

In doing so, you minimize losses, running out of stock and overstocking on products you do not need. Plus, as for your customer, a range too wide increases the difficulty in choosing.


Here is an example of how you can categorize your stock and create your own purchase (or range) strategy to follow. This process requires you working with suppliers and helps you define frequency of purchase.

We suggest clustering your range into 3 different categories: Pouring, Upsell and Excite

  1. Pouring: These are your best sellers. You can use these brands when consumers ask for well-known drinks but they do not declare the actual brand they want. For example: Gin and Tonic<. By using recognized brands, you also ensure quality of your offering.

    Merchandising tip: Double bank and dual site at your back bar. Make sure to introduce a speed rail at your bartender’s workstation. This helps to have everything at hand, especially for peak hours, ensuring a functional bar for your staff to perform at their best.

  2. Upsell: Stock premium range. There is always consumers that want to have a better drinking experience or celebrate with an even more special option to their regular. Make sure you identify those categories and brands where having a premium reference is essential for your business.

    Merchandising tip: Introduce a premium shelf in a noticeable location in your back bar with eyesight of the point(s) of purchase. Consider using lighting to make it stand out.

  3. Excite: Finally, stay on top of new trends and ensure familiar or local brands are available as well. Do some research about what’s popular in other places or create your own trend. Ask your suppliers for their support on this topic.

As for those brands your customers know by heart, make sure you have a reasonable stock of them. You do not want your customer to make an unhappy face and leave your venue in search of their favorite brand.


Now that you have identified a clear role for every product in your range, ask this question: is you bar designed to inspire your customer to choose what you want to drive in your business?

Finally, this is not an exact science. Try out what you feel is best for your venue, your space, your customers. Measure and learn. Identify what is working and what is not – don’t be afraid to tie in other elements from your bar, like the menu. Ask your staff or colleagues for different perspectives on the challenge at hand.